BRADENTON, Fla. — A manager at a national park along Florida’s Gulf Coast inappropriately touched an employee, misused his position and created potential conflicts of interest, according to a report released the U.S. Department of Interior’s watchdog office.
The report by the agency’s inspector general documents allegations made in 2015 against a manager of De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida. The male manager touched a female worker inappropriately, made inappropriate comments and invaded her personal space, according to the report, which redacts the names of the manager and employee.
A summary of the report was released earlier this year, and the full report was released last week through a public records request from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that advocates on behalf of government employees.
Investigators with the inspector general forwarded evidence to federal prosecutors in Florida, but the office declined to prosecute. The report was forwarded to the acting director of the National Park Service, where it is pending.
The female worker told investigators that the manager would sit or lie on her desk, hug her and once drove by her house. She asked him to stop and when he told her about driving by the house she told him “that this was ‘creepy’ and ‘stalker’ behavior,” the report said.
“She told us that he also made unwanted comments to her and called her ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful,’ which made her uncomfortable,” investigators said in the report.
In the report, the manager denied harassing the worker, saying he only touched her while hugging. He denied invading her personal space.
Investigators also said the manager violated park policy by drinking alcohol on park property with volunteers who were his friends, circumventing procedures to let those friends reside at the park and spending $1,000 to construct a new parking pad for those friends’ recreational vehicle. The report said the manager had vacationed at the volunteers’ homes.
The manager told investigators that “he could see how one might think that he had accepted gratuities from the volunteers, but he said he was unaware of any policy against staying with resident volunteers who were also personal friends,” the report said.
The report on the Florida park is only the latest allegations of harassment by park service leaders.
An inspector general’s report released in April said the former superintendent of Yosemite National Park created a hostile workplace by belittling employees, using words such as “stupid,” ”bozo” and “lazy,” and showing gender bias against women.
Yellowstone employees have complained about sexual exploitation of female workers and financial misconduct, while the superintendent at Grand Canyon retired after reports that male employees preyed on female colleagues, demanded sex and retaliated against women who refused. The chief of the Canaveral National Seashore in Florida is on paid leave amid similar allegations.